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United Way CEO: Let's get past this

By Mark Price and Eric Frazier
msprice@charlotteobserver.com

Forgive, even if you can't forget.

That's the message the United Way's new interim CEO has for the public as the agency prepares to launch its annual fundraising drive next week.

In an interview Thursday with the Observer, civic activist and former Wachovia executive Mac Everett, 61, said he won't dwell on or discuss the pay controversy that cost former president and CEO Gloria Pace King her job.

“People maybe have a reason to be angry, I don't know,” he said. “…What's done is done. I hope people will choose to get beyond this for the time being and let's focus on the campaign. You don't have to forget. But I do believe you forgive.”

King was relieved of her CEO duties this week in response to growing public ire over the United Way board's decision to pay her $1.2 million in salary and retirement benefits last year.

The board issued an apology, admitted it was mistaken and created an independent review panel headed by attorney Robert Sink to investigate the compensation and suggest improvements to the agency.

The board then asked Everett to serve up to four months as CEO. His monthly salary will be $20,000; Everett said he did not consider working for free. “It's a full-time job,” he said.

In a nearly hour-long interview, Everett declined to discuss King's performance and why she was relieved of her duties. He said he would not advocate releasing the meeting minutes associated with King's salary and benefits prior to the campaign's conclusion. The release, he said, should be left to the independent panel.

“My main focus is the campaign. I've made a commitment not to exceed four months,” he said. “… It's a pretty critical time for the United Way. The staff is ready and prepared for the campaign. My job is just to support them.”

United Way serves 91 agencies. Some have expressed concern that the controversy over King's salary issue will cause a drop in donations. A Carolinas Poll, conducted by the Observer and WCNC-TV, showed 29 percent of those who had heard of the controversy planned to reduce their donations this year.

Everett declined to go into detail about how United Way would meet the challenge, saying staffers would use “focus and discipline” in reminding potential donors of the community's pressing needs.

“What's happened has happened. And I'm going forward.”

Staff writer Kerry Hall contributed to this article.

Staff writer Kerry Hall contributed to this article.
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